So much public debate these days is sparked by shock and scandal. The lines between news and entertainment have become ever-more blurred, and it’s almost impossible to get people to pay attention to a topic that isn’t lurid or dramatic – electoral reform for example. Is there a less sexy subject out there than democratic renewal?

That’s one of many challenges faced when trying to engage Islanders in the debate which will end in a plebiscite in November. So in an attempt to capture your attention for three minutes, I am going to approach it from a totally different angle. The provocative title may have drawn many of you in: sex – as in the absence of; drugs as in the powerful narcotic which is debate on the relative merits of DMP and FPTP. OK, I admit it, I tricked you in order to get you to read on.

Let’s instead talk about Island values. I think Islanders have some very strong, deeply cherished ideals which have shaped our Island for many generations. I would list some of them as: Fairness, Neighbourliness, Community, Integrity, and Island pride. I’d like now to see how our electoral options line up against these principles.

Fairness. Islanders like fair play, and we don’t appreciate it when there is obvious injustice. Is it fair when 40% of Islanders elect a majority government that holds 67% of the seats and therefore 100% of the power? Wouldn’t it be infinitely more fair if those 40% of votes received 40% of the seats in the House? I’d like an electoral system that reflects our desire for fairness.

Community. Islanders are inclusive: we don’t leave people out, but our current electoral system creates a Legislature that doesn’t reflect the rich variety of Island life. We are diverse ethnically, socially, and in age, yet our parliament is dominated by pale, stale males. My community is 51% female, yet only 15% of the MLAs in our Legislature are women. I’d like an electoral system that would result in a more diverse parliament that better reflects who we are.

Neighbourliness. One feature of Island life is our desire to help each other. You see this in an infinite variety of ways – fundraisers, socials, going all the way back to helping your neighbor get the crop in. This natural collaborative instinct is not reflected in our politics today. It is combative, hostile and unfriendly – quite the opposite of who we are. I’d prefer an electoral system that promoted cooperation and working together towards shared solutions: I think that would be more the Island way.

Integrity. Islanders are principled people. That we hold fairness, community and neighborliness close to heart speaks to our natural kindness and honesty. Our politics hasn’t always been that way, however, and patronage, cronyism and corruption have long, storied histories here on PEI. For over a century and a half, two parties have shared power almost equally, holding 100% of the power 50% of the time. This sort of pattern has led to all the problems listed above. I’d prefer an electoral system that would minimize the opportunities for the abuse of power, not facilitate it.
Island Pride. We live in a distinct place and Islanders are fiercely proud of who we are and what we do. I’d like to see an electoral system that is properly suited to our unique needs and values here on PEI: a system we can be proud of.

So ….. my ideal electoral system would echo the values of fairness, community, neighbourliness, integrity and Island Pride. And guess what? There is an electoral system which does exactly that – it’s called Proportional Representation. Forget about the head-squeezing math exercise of figuring out how the minutiae of each of the 5 systems being presented in this plebiscite would work; instead focus on a system that will reflect who we are. I shouldn’t pretend that Proportional Representation will usher in an era of perfect governance and blissful leadership: it won’t. But it would, in my mind, be an enormous step in the right direction.

We can do this. We can be visionary leaders for our country, which is looking to our little Island for direction on electoral reform. Let’s show the rest of Canada that we are ready for a modern electoral system that echoes our Island and Canadian values.

 

6 Comments

  1. Bill Kays 14 October 2016 at 7:57 am

    My ideal representative government would be for me to represent myself and it is called direct democracy. Proportional representation is the next best thing, but in this day of instant communication why can I not vote on a pertinent piece of legislation directly, online? Why must my ‘representative’ have to guess at how I feel about anything? Why do we not use the instant, constant technology for good, rather than to just serve up advertising faster to the consumer? Why not use the tech for essentially a plebiscite on every piece of legislation? You see, we do not vote for the intelligence of our representative. Our representative is supposed to vote the will of his constituents, rather than his own will, his own choice, based on his wisdom or brilliance in solving problems. Politicians rarely solve anything these days. THey tend to create more problems as a direct result of following party line.

     
  2. Marcia Carroll 14 October 2016 at 8:12 am

    Hi Peter. Thank you for this important message. On the point of inclusion you could you could also add that 1/5 of the Island populations are folks living with disabilities and this should be reflected in our legislature as well. Thank you again and let hope Islanders vote for change.

     
  3. david weale 14 October 2016 at 10:49 am

    Excellent bit of analysis. Puts the vote in context brilliantly.

     
  4. Brent Mackinnon 15 October 2016 at 7:45 am

    Our present system has, with all its perceived flaws, served us well. I have no interest in a system which would put people in the legislature with no direct accountability to the voters nor do I wish for a system whereby majority governments will become rare. It is human nature to want to change a system that doesn’t meet our personal wants or the wants of our small group. Change for change sake is not never prudent.

     
  5. C. Foy 16 October 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Peter. This concept on Electoral Reform was brought up before by Norman Carruthers. Now, I may not be exactly right on that but Norman sure talked a lot about it. He was for it but the people on PEI, including myself in some areas, did not go for it. I believe it is the fairest way to govern by far.
    As for 1/5 of the PEI population being disabled I agree there should be something to improve their situation as well. There are a lot of things that have to be looked at in relation to housing, nursing homes, home care etc. It isn’t just the elderly that are disabled .

     
  6. youpicks 16 October 2016 at 6:11 pm

    Its true that we respond to issues of drama more so than calming soothing alarms. Good to know you are connecting with us and trying to wake the blissful. We are blessed on Prince Edward island. We are blessed with good water and good caring people . Our beaches are clean and beer is cold. We have alarming rates of cancer and in the end the only way we islanders can protect this sacred space is by casting our fracking vote. We are blessed… Yes we are. We also wish our island to stay the same. Yes we do. So changing how we vote is going to be a challenge. I for one have not been convinced how PR voting will fill which seats and by whom and by how. If we gather 41 % of the vote how will we fill these seats in government to represent us?. How will it be done.? I still dont know how that will take place Boss. Peter you can use sex and patronage next time . Lots of shale games going on . Cornwall dwarfs Plan B on so many levels and its totally fracked up. Biggest trough yet. Just sayin. You have allot to do. Keep the faith. How do you spell Troff ?

     

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